Commentary  Editorial: The growing importance of Independent Media

We count ourselves lucky that we’ll be back next year, despite increasing competition on and off campus, and with the recession exacerbating the already troubling state of traditional media. The CBC is in bad financial straits, and with the recent closings of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, to name two, it seems many cities may be on their way to becoming one- or zero-paper towns. Online “citizen journalists” and bloggers have called into question the need for their professional counterparts. Now, more than ever, those dire predictions that within decades, the Internet will replace the newsstand, seem possible.

While online-only media have the potential to be as credible as most print sources, few online sources have figured out how to support vital infrastructure such as newsrooms and editorial boards. The established model of generating revenue from print media is failing, and the transition to online has been less than profitable. Career journalists not only report on current events, but they perform the irreplaceable and often tedious service in finding original stories and breaking them. Even the best online news sources depend heavily on the work of professionals to provide them with the original information. As they come under fire, so does the public’s first line of accredited news.

The extinction of print media would have greater consequences than the loss of the pleasant tactile experience of holding a newspaper or magazine. Not only can it be distributed in areas with limited electricity and Internet access, the commitment of words to paper creates a traceable account of stories and encourages accountability, as fact-checking is crucial prior to publication.

Then again, this isn’t the first time the world has braced itself for the death of print media. The advent of the telegraph in the nineteenth century and televised news in the twentieth both called into question the need for print media to break stories – regardless, print media survived. With media bombarding us from every corner, and yet converging under single mega-companies, we suspect as well that independent print media will play an increasingly important role in journalism’s future of niche publications.

While we can only hope for the best for the future of print media, The Daily asks you to continue the support of our publication and to stay involved in its production. A few weeks ago, we were only able to sell one page of ads in the entire issue, prompting some debate amongst the editorial board as to whether publishing that day would be wise at all – but we decided to publish because of our commitment to readers and the content prepared for that issue. We sold fewer ads this year, and projections for next year are significantly lower. The result is we’ll be cutting costs – we’ve already planned to print two fewer issues if need be – and will likely ask for a larger financial contribution from students in the future.

The Daily believes in the importance of independent media, and that we think we carry out that role for you on campus by giving attention to communities whose concerns are often neglected, analyzing power relations, and examining issues that are usually ignored by the mainstream media. With The Trib going independent in September 2010, we think our guiding Statement of Principles will certainly make us unique. This isn’t just an abstract statement; it applies to student voices, which are increasingly pushed further from the centre of the University’s focus. For example, take the recent clash between floor fellows and the new Director of Residences, and the debate sparked online and in our pages.

We’ve done our best this year to open ourselves up to our readers’ concerns, and we hope you never forget that this is your paper.